Christine McCaleb grew up in the area.
You may have seen her walking. That’s how she spent her days.
Ormond Beach resident Christine McCaleb, 67, died on a DeLand street about 3 a.m. on Oct. 16, the victim of a stabbing, police say. She was a local resident, but for the past eight years, her home was the windswept sidewalks, benches and parks of the city.
Police believe she was killed for the blanket that covered her as she slept on a bench. The suspect, Jared Shaw, 32, also described by police as homeless, has been charged with murder.
“She would have given that guy her blanket,” said her daughter, Michelle Walker-Arel, of Ormond Beach.
All those contacted for this story said that mental illness was the reason for her homeless situation.
McCaleb was known by many in the area, including Volusia County Deputy Donna Nichols who had frequent contact with her in Ormond-by-the-Sea.
An article in the July 14, 2016, Observer featured McCaleb and how the deputy would bring her food and other necessities. After her death, Nichols contacted the Observer and said she did not want McCaleb to be forgotten.
“I did care for her and helped when I saw her and many others did too,” Nichols said recently. “I took it personally. She was two years age difference from my mother.”
At the parks, McCaleb would stand out. She would not hang out with the other homeless. And everyone who knew her remarked that she always took care to have clean clothes and brushed hair.
Several people in OBTS tried to help, Nichols said, but McCaleb would leave after a few days.
“One lady took her in and tried to get her on Social Security but she took off,” she said.
She would not go to a shelter, but she knew where to get food and clothes.
The deputy said If she was caught stealing, it would always be food.
“For the most part she was nice and cordial,” Nichols said. “On a good day she was cheery. She would greet you with a smile.”
But she could be angry and very unpleasant when not on her medications, which she could get if she reported to a hospital.
“We can’t force people to get help. And the mentally ill don’t realize they need help,” Nichols said.
Evelyn Rebostini, victim’s advocate for Ormond Beach Police Dept., got to know McCaleb when she helped her get a Florida I.D. card after her personal information was stolen.
“She was a wonderful person,” she said. “She could remember everything. She talked about her first dates, how she met her first husband, how amazing it was when she had her daughter.”
Rebostini said McCaleb had very good sense of humor and somehow knew all the things that were going on in the world.
She would come in the police station and ask for a bus pass, or just to talk to Rebostini.
“If someone hurt her feelings, she’d want to talk about it,” she said.
She knows that McCaleb was angry with others when not on medication, but never was that way with her.
Dealing with the bureaucracy was difficult for McCaleb.
“She lived a life of frustration,” Rebostini said.
Rebostini looks forward to the day when a facility becomes available to get homeless back on their feet through case management.
McCaleb was born in Ohio and moved as a child with her parents to Holly Hill, later also living in Astor and Ormond Beach, according to her only child, Walker-Arel.
When homeless, she would travel other cities, but always returned to Ormond Beach.
She was married three times in her life, and for a while worked as a home health aide. She loved the beach, candles, dancing and finding treasures at thrift stores. Her daughter remembers her humor.
“She laughed at everything, including herself,” she said.
Mostly, she loved Jesus. She was very religious.
In 1990, she was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. For a long time, she lived on her own, but things changed in the recession of 2007. There was a change in the case worker and the doctor assigned to her case. Without the familiar voices, she stopped taking her medications, which led to her eviction on Sept. 1, 2011.
“I had no idea she was about to be evicted,” her daughter said.
The ensuing years were a struggle. Her mother would be treated and released, with health care workers citing patient rights. Also, her mother did not like being confined, and knew what to say to get released.
“It was the most frustrating thing I ever went through,” she said.
McCaleb has sisters in the area, and would stay with them for short periods, but would always leave. Walker-Arel was raising two small children and was afraid for her mother to stay with them, because of her paranoia. It was the hardest decision she ever made.
“She had demons. She fought and fought,” Walker-Arel said. “I never blamed her. It was not her fault. I never stopped praying for her and trying to help her. The last thing she said to me is, ‘I love you, don’t ever forget that.’”
THE MENTAL ILLNESS PROBLEM
According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at homelesshub.ca, a web-based research library and information center, people with poor mental health are more susceptible to the three main factors that can lead to homelessness: poverty, disaffiliation, and personal vulnerability.
The website states that, In general, 30-35% of those experiencing homelessness have mental illnesses. For homeless women, the percentage is 75%.
People who have severe mental illnesses are often released from hospitals and jails without proper community supports in place, the website states. Community-based mental health services and housing play an important role in reducing homelessness for the mentally ill.
Victoria Fahlberg, executive director of the First Step Shelter being constructed in Daytona Beach, said there will be a mental health component at the facility, and she believes it is very important.
“We are contracting with SMA to have a Behavioral Health Care Specialist on-site. They are the largest provider of public Behavioral Health Care Services in the county. This SMA liaison will facilitate direct referrals to SMA community services and help our case managers connect residents to SMA and other needed community-based resources,” she wrote in an email.
“I did care for her and helped when I saw her and many others did too”
Deputy Donna Nichols, on Christine McCaleb